On the back of a strong financial performance – which saw profits rise from £25m to £286m – ITV has announced it heavy investments in programming and digital.
It is to up is production budget by £12m in a bid to replicate the export success of programmes like ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and will increase its online budget by £7m in a bid to improve services such as the ITV Player and will spend an additional £6m developing the digital channels ITV2, 3 and 4.
In addition the company has said it plans to announce trials of a paid-for online TV service, which could be up and running by the end of this year. It could involve a combination of micro-payments, subscriptions and pay-for-view and the company has confirmed it has opened talks with YouTube owner Google.
Previous chairman Michael Grade had previously described the search engine as a ‘parasite’. But new chief executive Adam Crozier said: “We have talked to Google. The key thing is we keep control of our Player and content. It is very different from giving content away.”
Grade said that the company’s online side aimed to open up new revenue streams other than advertising. This accounts for the greater emphasis on getting paid-to-view models working and the strategy would involve seeing it appearing on new platforms. Crozier said it will “hopefully be on mobile phones and tablets shortly,” and that connected TV opportunities are also being considered.
Despite ITV’s strong figures the performance of its studio operations was a fly in the ointment. Largely because of the waning fortunes of ‘I’m a Celebrity’, which was not made in markets like the US this year, the company reported a 12.5% fall in production revenue to £293m.
The company now plans to invest in new talent, pilots and projects to reverse this trend. ITV Studios, which is based in Manchester and London, currently makes around 2,000 hours of programming a year and its shows include Coronation Street.
The organisation also has sales offices in seven countries. But Crozier said, “We need to be in 17. We need to invest in the network.”
In terms of the digital channel plans Crozier would not be drawn on details. But it is thought it could extend their HD offerings, currently available to those using BSKYB services to other platforms such as Virgin Media.